US rocked as claims for unemployment leap up

THE number of Americans filing for jobless benefits rose to an eight-month high last week and productivity growth slowed in the first-quarter, clouding the outlook for an economy that is struggling to gain speed.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 43,000 to a seasonally adjusted 474,000, the highest since mid-August, the Labor Department said yesterday,

Claims were pushed up by factors ranging from spring break layoffs to the introduction of an emergency benefits program.

Economists had expected claims to fall to 410,000.

A second report from the department showed non-farm productivity increased at a 1.6 per cent annual rate, braking from a 2.9 per cent pace in the fourth-quarter. The growth pace was nonetheless above economists’ expectations for one per cent.